I made my way down the street in the direction of my shop from O’Mainin’s Pub, the night not seeming quite so dark as it had the last few days. I smiled fondly thinking of the night that I had pulled Bianca up to the lab, startled by the complete emergence of the woman that had melded before my eyes so many weeks ago. The drugs Armand had had her on let slip their grip on her and I was talking to a balanced, if still troubled, woman.
I chuckled as I passed Loner Lane, the familiar sounds and smells of Port welcoming me as I approached, remembering how Bianca had run up to the large picture window in my lab and pressed her nose to it while she gazed out in wide-eyed wonder. I sighed as I recalled our kiss, turning the corner and finally laying eyes on my shop. The admission of feelings, while merely whispers, rang out inside my head. What had taken months to develop finally revealed itself as the words came tumbling clumsily from my lips. I smiled as I entered the shop and strode confidently in the dark and took two steps at a time to my lab. It was here that, after the events of the past few days, I knew everything was going to be alright.
Ah, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself yet again. That night she had gone home to tell her father the good news of her condition and the next day I busied myself with near completion of the pneumatic postage dispatch center. As is the case when I’m working on something time got away from me and as night fell I thought I’d take the next day off to find out how Armand had taken the news. But settling back and writing an entry in my notebook I was shaken by a shout from the shop below.
I quickly bounded down the stairs and was met by an old friend of Bianca’s from childhood, a Miss Imako. She was out of breath and going on about how Armand had taken Bianca to some lab. I was shocked; surely Armand could see that Bianca was now better. What was the meaning of all of this?
Miss Imako didn’t know where the lab was and I wasn’t sure where Armand had taken up residence in Babbage. We ran across town to the goggle shop, then to the O’Mainin’s, and finally made haste for the hospital, a place where Armand had been treating Bianca for some time. Those were the only places I could think to check and none of them panned out. We even checked the new construction next to the hospital that Dr. Harvey had claimed to hear noises coming from. Yet we came up empty-handed. In a half-finished room under the Vernian I swore I would find her. And then I just swore. A lot.
For the next couple days when I walked about I was in a fog. I searched all of Babbage that I knew of, despairing in the knowledge that there was plenty that I didn’t know about it. The door to my own lab was one that many people passed and were usually shocked to find that the brick retracted back into the wall. When I could I threw myself into my work, the pneumatic station going up even quicker than I could have guessed possible. Saturday night came and I dressed for the ball, hoping against hope that Armand would make an appearance.
I was not let down. Shortly after I arrived I caught sight of Bianca and quickly asked her to dance, wanting to know what had happened to her. But while she accepted, I could tell immediately something was wrong. She looked at me as though she hardly knew me. As we spun on the dance floor it was like we had flashed back to three or four months ago: still good friends but having never been through the trial and tribulations of her illness. Nothing we had shared had made it through.
I grew angry with Armand for what he had taken from me. I kept my conversation polite with Bianca until she excused herself. I asked Miss Imako to dance when someone mentioned something about Armand. I twirled her around until I caught sight of him. We spied each other and he excused himself from his partner as I did the same with mine, following him out of Piermont.
I stalked him closely, making no attempt to conceal my presence until he turned on his heel to face me. I demanded answers and he gave them calmly. That cool demeanor merely fueled the fire within me as he explained that he had ‘regressed’ her through some device. It had turned back the clock for her to the month before her trip to Ireem and her bout with malaria that had caused her to split. Worse than this news was when he said it was I who had pointed out in a previous conversation that should Bianca be put back together she wouldn’t be the same. The conversation grew heated and I said some rather horrible things to him that now I’m sure aren’t appropriate to even write down in a personal notebook.
I stormed off, stewing in all he had said when I passed a girl sitting alone on a park bench. A brief conversation with her cooled my seething anger and I found she was alone and displaced. I offered her a job opportunity as Postmaster in the post station and requested she speak with me further the next day. She seemed happy about that and it helped lift my spirits a bit. I had time to think clearly for the first time in days.
I thought about what Armand said, even through the completion of the station. I had a chance to speak the new (or old?) Bianca again yesterday and I could still see shades of the woman I had gotten to know for the last few months. Had the regression failed? Or was it that this Bianca had bled through the melded one? I didn’t know for sure but when I showed her my lab again, for the first time, I guess, she ran up to the picture window and pressed her nose to it, gazing out in wide-eyed wonder. I smiled to myself and rethought my stance on all of this.
I came to the realization that Armand and I had both wanted the same thing, we merely had different methods. After Bianca and I parted once more I sought him out, finding him at O’Mainin’s pub. I apologized to him for what I had said while defending my position. He graciously accepted and we had a lengthy discussion about how many more similarities there were between us than differences. He even made mention of a group he was planning to form…
Towards the end of our conversation I asked him for permission to court his daughter. After a very brief discussion concerning broken kneecaps he agreed just as Bianca entered the bar. She turned beet red and stared at the floor when Armand made mention of her courting. I nearly leapt for joy when she accepted, her shy smile propelling me into the atmosphere.
Which brings us back to me, walking home from the pub last night, thinking about how the dark wasn’t so dark anymore. The future is always uncertain, but it seemed just a bit brighter now.